Venezuela – ‘a nation with no future’?


About 20 percent of Venezuela’s children face problems of malnutrition, and the number of children admitted to hospitals for severe malnutrition has spiked, The Miami Herald reports:

A survey carried out by Venezuela’s National Assembly’s Health Committee concluded that nine out of every 10 Venezuelan homes lack the resources to maintain a balanced diet as the country sinks into hyperinflation. The latest official data shows the basic food basket per month for a family of five costs about 226,000 bolivares (about $22.60), while the minimum monthly salary stands at about 15,000 bolivares ($15).

Venezuela is starting to show signs of the kind of poverty we see in other continents,” said Antonio de la Cruz, executive director of Inter American Trends, a Washington D.C. firm. “And the crisis is hitting harder on the most vulnerable sector, the children.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry this week said he was concerned that the government of Venezuela has failed to enter into meaningful dialogue with the opposition, which is trying to organize a referendum to kick President Nicolás Maduro out of power.

“We encourage Venezuela to embrace the recall not in a delayed way that pushes it into next year, but to do this as a sign of respect for the constitution of the country and the needs of the people of the country,” Kerry told reporters.

As socialist Venezuela faces its worst economic crisis in living memory, the country’s armed forces, under the command of defence minister General Vladimir Padrino López, have emerged as a key player, the FT adds:

Many were unnerved when Maduro, Venezuela’s unpopular president, this month handed the military extraordinary powers to tackle ravaging shortages in a country where food and basic medicines are increasingly hard to find and the inflation rate is forecast to top 700 per cent. As well as taking charge of food production and distribution, Venezuela’s ports have come under army control, and several government ministries now report directly to the defence minister and to Mr Maduro.

Giovanna de Michele, a defence expert at the Central University of Venezuela, says that, bolstered by these new powers, Gen Padrino López is now “the most powerful man in Venezuela”.

In a co-written article on the Latin America Goes Global website, Javier Corrales, a Venezuela scholar at Amherst College in the US, says the decision to lean more heavily on the army is “the clearest sign that a dangerously weak government, rapidly losing control of the situation, has taken desperate measures to survive”. Yet with polls suggesting Venezuelans favour removing the president, Mr Corrales raises “another possible interpretation: that this was a semi-coup by the military against a rudderless, ineffective and discredited Maduro government”.

Misspent oil riches, moreover, have deformed Venezuelan society. Oil wealth has done away with political accountability, analyst Raúl Gallegos writes for Foreign Affairs:

The military has become a dangerous institution run by generals who have never fought a war but demand expensive new planes in addition to privilege and power over civilians. (When they become unhappy, they usually stage coups.) Business leaders have learned to expect high returns from selling imported foreign goods at a hefty markup, with little incentive to create, innovate, or produce. Consumers save no money because inflation devours their salaries, so they use credit cards to spend compulsively instead. In effect, Venezuela has become a nation with no future. 

Venezuela’s South American neighbors should invoke regional treaties to demand that Maduro comply with his own country’s constitution by accepting Venezuela’s National Assembly’s laws, and by allowing a recall referendum with credible international observers before Jan. 10, 2017, analyst Andres Oppenheimer writes:

If Maduro is not pressed within the next two weeks to take the necessary steps to convene the recall vote before Jan. 10, 2017, it will be too late, and there will be no open avenues left for a peaceful resolution of Venezuela’s crisis. Kerry’s message should be that there is little time left to prevent a major humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

By the time Hugo Chávez, Maduro’s late predecessor, was elected in 1999, Venezuela had an operating civil society, but his administration’s style became a polarizing force, reports suggest:

It’s an attitude that many say continues today, along with a wariness toward some NGOs spurred by international groups’ support for opposition-led referendums that sought to remove Mr. Chávez from office.

Some, like Lilian Tintori (right), the wife of imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo López, who launched a campaign to gather donations across the world, have faced pushback from Mr. Maduro’s government when trying to get permits to transport supplies across Venezuelan borders. In June, with nearly 100 tons of basic medical supplies like rubber gloves and syringes stuck in warehouses from Miami to Bogota, she called on the government to “open a humanitarian channel that will enable international aid to reach those most in need.” The UN’s human rights office last month urged similar action.

“The government had a perspective that in various circumstances amounted to: However good your project is, if it is not explicitly on behalf of the government, we aren’t interested,” says Phil Gunson, a Caracas-based senior analyst for the International Crisis Group.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email